Often when I’m out running I see groups of people running together. There’s a part of me that runs away from that but there’s also a part of me that wants to embrace it. You see I kind of see the sport of running as an individuals sport, something for the solitary types. Yet when I’m surrounded by others in a common race there is a moment when I look around at everyone and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. This year when I decided to run another marathon I wasn’t sure why but I resolved that I would figure it out once I was out there.
So during the training period leading up to this marathon I kind of wished for a running partner. Well maybe not a running partner but someone to keep me going. Someone to motivate me and push me beyond what I think are my limits. A support person. A *suffer buddy. I’ve just recently come across this term - suffer buddy. The thing is that as a trainer I spend much of my day as a “support person” and although I take on the traits of a suffer buddy I’ve been called many things but that. For the most part I know what to tell myself to get through my challenges. But sometimes when all I can tell myself is “hurry up and finish I want a sandwich” I think a suffer buddy might offer something more inspiring. A suffer buddy understands that all at once you want to quit and not quit. They keep it together when you think you can’t. When you think you’ve had enough your suffer buddy doesn’t lose their edge. They put aside arrogance and cynicism. They are clear on their role and know that what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is personal. It’s not about them or their logic. It’s about you. When your mind is yelling "What the f*!@ are you doing?!?! Put your feet up!!!! Have a sandwich!!!" your suffer buddy shoves water down your throat and repeats your mantra.
Maybe because I’m approaching that dreaded midlife number I want to believe there is still so much in me that I haven’t tapped into. I’ve been told I’m obsessive for running marathons. You see it can be quite demanding and a full length training program can take over your life. So I do alter my life just to fit in a fraction of the recommended training. There’s work, bills, kids, meals and laundry. You still need to sleep and recover. This is when broken sleep really sucks. Yes, life still happens. So what one may see as obsessive another may see as determined. When one sees crazy, another sees inspiring. It’s not for everyone. But I think it can be.
Recently while trying to offer solace to an injured friend I was reminded that a marathon is not just about the run. In the time and determination needed to get through each hill, mile and lap we learn about ourselves. The training is not just about the training. What you accomplish during that time is about you. And this is true with any challenge you take on. Even if it’s a decision that tonight you will get out and walk. But sometimes only you can see that. On the outside there will always be someone with an excuse and who finds all this just too much of an inconvenience. My motivation to participate in a marathon is not based on logic. It’s emotion. For you, starting a health and fitness program might be about neither. Maybe you’ve simply had a wake up call regarding your health. And my reasons for racing change at each stage of the race - the beginning is different than the middle and the end. We make a decision to begin a healthy lifestyle for one reason only to realise that we're continuing for all the benefits gained along the way. When we take something on because we have to (doctors orders), a little suffering goes a long way. After all we were in fact suffering by not doing.
Perhaps when I decide to take on something really big I will find myself a suffer buddy but for now – well, I’ll just have to be my own.
Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.
*Runner’s World, April 2009, Flight of the Bumble Bee by Christie Aschwanden